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Council hires extra counsel

Boulder City has new legal representation to help with its real estate, utility and energy contracts.

At its Tuesday, Feb. 8, meeting, City Council unanimously approved hiring the firm of Sklar Williams to help in those areas.

City Attorney Brittany Walker said outside counsel was needed because these areas of law are complex, constantly changing and require specialized expertise and knowledge to ensure the city is best protected and safeguarded for the future by the agreements it enters into.

“With lease revenues forming a significant portion of our budget and utilities being a primary service provided to our residents, it is prudent to have access to attorneys with specialized knowledge of real estate, water and energy law issues as they arise,” she said.

According to a staff report, Sklar Williams has expertise and experience in real estate and administrative law, as well as energy and water law. Walker said she was recommending the firm because she had used it with a previous solar lease option that was being exercised.

“They proved their value immediately,” she said. “They caught an error in the lease form that would have delayed rent increases for seven years had the error not been caught.”

Additionally, she said Sklar Williams will help the city negotiate the land sale contract for Tract 350 and make sure it’s written so that the developer is held to its promises and the city is protected as much as possible.

Ann Pongracz, head of the firm’s regulatory and administrative areas, was at the meeting to answer questions.

“I was looking through the qualifications, and I saw the background on real estate … and I saw most of the things listed there included the actual builders, not necessarily municipalities, writing contracts for them. … Obviously in our negotiations we’re on the other side of that,” said Councilwoman Sherri Jorgensen. “Have you had or anyone in your office had experience in that area?”

Pongracz said that she had, but the experience with the other side could be good for the city.

“In part, because the firm has done so much on the other side, I think that gives us a real edge in terms of what to look for,” she said.

Walker said she also planned to use the firm to make the city’s solar lease form stronger, so it would be in a better position.

In addition to real estate matters, Utilities Director Joe Stubitz said the firm would help his department negotiate a new power purchase agreement as well as help with water contracts.

“Would this need to be added to the budget or is the money already there?” asked Jorgensen.

Stubitz said the money for his department’s needs is already in the utility funds budget.

Walker said payment for these services would be provided through the budget process and it would come from the land development fund, utility fund or city attorney professional services budget, depending on the process.

According to the resolution, a total of $175,000 per fiscal year could come from those three funds to pay for the services. Specifically, no more than $25,000 could come from the land development fund, no more than $100,000 from the utility fund and no more than $50,000 from the city attorney’s budget.

Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at cgoodyear@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.

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